Bringing sustainable fashion into the spotlight of mainstream news

According to the Lord Ashcroft polls, climate change was the 4th biggest factor in how people decided to vote behind public services, Brexit, and the economy in 2019. Whether you agreed with the Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg’s school strike for climate change, and social media activism or not – it worked. People are talking about climate change. And not just amongst the young. In a survey of 1,050 British investors by US investment company GraniteShares, a staggering 30% of respondents said they saw renewables as the most promising investment. 

A big part of the solution to climate change is moving towards a more sustainable side of life and this, naturally, involves the clothes we wear. 

My personal engagement with sustainable fashion occurred during the spring before my A-Level exams, when I decided I would like to wear a sustainably-made dress to my Leavers Ball. With help from friends, I found a shop called Reformation. Suitable dresses started at £120 (while mini-dresses started at £80) and went up to £500. The same story played out with Cult Gaia, Maision Cleo, House of Sunny, & Other Stories – the list goes on. It was then I realised I couldn’t find one I could afford. 

The recent outrage about conditions and pay in factories supplying to the Boohoo Group PLC has once again brought the need for a sustainable future into the spotlight of mainstream news. But where do we start? 

1. Sustainable fashion is not as accessible as fast fashion. 

Correct. You can physically walk into shops like New Look and Primark and everyone has heard of internet stores like Boohoo, In the Style, and Missy Empire. Both online retailers and in-store retailers stock an enormous range of products making it easier, more convenient, and less time-consuming.

The solution comes in the form of ‘conscious lines’. While this has been labelled as ‘green-washing’ by some in the sustainable community, as they believe companies seek to capitalise on the ‘sustainability trend’, a start is better than nothing. The more demand for these lines, the more companies will see they can profit from going greener and will take action to better themselves. 

2. Sustainable fashion is more expensive than fast fashion.

Once again, generally correct. The business model of major fashion companies is designed to minimise price, but to do this they have to cut corners and this doesn’t come from the executive staff, it comes from where it always does – those at the bottom, whether they are paid directly from the company or are paid via third-party outsourcing. Funding sustainable materials, paying creators minimum wage, finding ethical factories, reducing shipping emissions, and lots of other factors will push up prices for shops trying to be sustainable. 

There are a few solutions to this. One is using physical charity shops, but also second-hand online shops which operate like an online retailer with selected garments, making it “easier, more convenient and less time-consuming”. A great example is @redcactusvintage. Another is attending events like @thevintagekilosale, where you pay £15 per kilo of clothes and rummage to your heart’s content. Next, Depop, where the likelihood you’ll find the product you’re looking for is massive and often the price will be lower, meaning you get to keep wearing your favourite brands.

3.  But I would like to support new businesses trying to be sustainable!

Amazing! And THIS is the biggest solution of all: redirecting money away from big corporations onto new and emerging design talent who are trying to better the planet. Yes, our love of wearing branded clothing may have to cease, but it will be much more morally rewarding to switch. 

Solutions to this are simple. You can follow influencers who promote sustainable products. For example, @niftythrifter, @n.ann.thrift & @sustainablerox. You can also follow other Instagram accounts like @ones.towatch (highlighting Depop pages) and @iduncompany (highlighting sustainable brands and products). While these solutions only cater to audiences with Instagram, the more traction brands get online, the more likely they are to be passed on via word of mouth and then doors open to them getting their own physical stores and widening product capacity. Also, type in a product on google and simply type “sustainable” in front of it. Do some digging – you never know, you might strike gold.

While this is only a drop in the ocean of sustainability, I hope it helps in some way, shape or form. Even if it just gets to one person, I’ll be happy. The question is, dear reader: will it be you? 

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Freyja Elwood

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January 2022
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